Early spring is an explosion of color in Washington, D.C., with the National Cherry Blossom Festival (this year, March 20 to April 14) roughly coinciding with the amazing snowy white-and-pink blooming trees around the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park and the Washington Monument. It’s also the most exciting time for kids: loads of outdoor activities, including the annual White House Easter Egg Roll. Getting into that Easter party isn’t guaranteed (tickets are given out via a lottery system). But your kids can still spend some quality time with the bunny. Read on.
Here, my top family to-dos list for spring, and Easter, in the U.S. nation’s capital…
The Spy Museum
Is there a budding James Bond in the family? Spy-curious types of all ages are in for a treat with a visit to one of the city’s most talked-about museums, found in the middle of the vibrant Penn Quarter. Interactive exhibits walk you through the experience of being a spy, along with a dazzling collection of paraphernalia that will keep everyone engrossed for hours.
Brunch with the Easter Bunny
Seasons restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel, Washington, DC is renowned as a power brunch spot. But when we were there, plenty of families had found their way to the airy spot—recently renovated with natural, hand-crafted décor and contemporary art. On any Sunday, there are plenty of dishes for kids to love: a carving station; seasonal, farm-fresh offerings; seafood and cheese stations. What they won’t forget is the entire room dedicated to mini desserts. Easter Brunch is even more special this year, when kids get to go on their own egg hunt in the courtyard at noon, pick from their own mini-buffet, get an Easter gift at their table, and of course, meet the Easter Bunny.
Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Steps from the front door of Four Seasons in Georgetown, explore this vital piece of American transportation history with a stroll along the canal towpath. In operation for nearly 100 years, the canal winds its way through one of the neighborhoods’s most charming historical areas, quickly leaving the city behind as it continues its 184-mile journey parallel to the Potomac River, slicing directly through the Appalachian Mountains.
If you’re feeling ambitious, the hotel concierge can arrange bicycle rentals for your family—it’s the perfect way to explore the level-grade trail, popular with cyclists on the weekends.
Let the kids run wild at this award-winning animal park, home to 400 different species living in a wide variety of habitats spread out over 163 acres (wear comfortable shoes!) within scenic Rock Creek National Park. Famously home to an ever-rotating cast of panda bears, you can also see some of Africa’s wildest beasts, including lions and elephants. Administered by the Smithsonian Institution, admission is free; though parking is expensive and at peak times, somewhat scarce. For a hassle-free visit, inquire about free use of Four Seasons’ house car service.
The riverside setting alone—sprawled out along the Potomac—of George Washington’s estate is reason enough to make the quick trip south of the city. The opportunity to journey back in time truly seals the deal. A four-acre working farm, plus gardens, complements the beautifully restored buildings; costumed staff is on hand to interpret the experience and tell stories of life in the old days. The on-site Mount Vernon Inn offers a children’s menu at lunch.
Insect Zoo at the Natural History Museum
Kids love this interactive section of one of the more impressive museums you’ll find on the National Mall: tarantula feedings, a chance to explore tunnels created by termites, terrariums full of various creepy crawlies. Next door, the museum’s beautiful Butterfly Pavilion exhibits 50 different species, along with the plants butterflies require to stay happy.
Street performers, sidewalk vendors, pavement cafés and lots of really good things to eat make this historic market district just off Capitol Hill one of the liveliest places in town on a Saturday morning. For the urban experience, catch the Metro to the convenient Eastern Market stop. Children love the futuristic-looking stations that are a hallmark of the city’s underground network.
Tucked away in a section of Washington most tourists will never see, this giant, secret garden is a treasure trove of flora, beloved by locals in-the-know. With miles of trails to explore and a seemingly endless number of gardens, this is a place to come with spare time on your hands. Make sure to drop by the National Grove of Trees, a 30-acre area of the park with 45 of the 50 state trees able to thrive in the local climate.
Box Seats at a Nationals Game
Baseball is always fun in the nation’s capital. But this year is something special: Washington’s Nationals are playing 81 home games this season, starting with the 80th home opener since 1901 on Monday, April 1 (vs. Miami). Visitors can take in weekend games between the Nationals and the Braves, Cubs, Dodgers, Mets, Phillies and Twins. As the Four Seasons concierge about getting box seats.
Key Souvenir: Thousands of Dollars
Kids will love a tour of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, where you can see millions of dollars being printed as you go along a walkway overlooking the production floor. Spring Break and Easter are the busiest times, so get in line early (by 6:30 am) for your free tickets. Best souvenir: a bag of thousands of dollars, shredded, which you can buy from the gift shop.
Read more about Washington, D.C. in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our “Concierge Recommendations” for Washington, D.C. in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our Guide to Spring Traditions, including Easter, in Four Seasons Magazine.
Andrea Bennett is a contributing editor for Travel + Leisure whose work you can also find in T:The New York Times style magazine, Town & Country, and The New York Post. Andrea has also written for The Wall Street Journal (for whom she wrote the weekly "Takeoffs and Landings" column, Money, Fortune, Men’s Journal, Islands, Departures, Town & Country Travel, Business Traveler, and Southern Living. She currently consults with hotel companies and is a partner in Bespoke Content Studio. After years in New York City, South Carolina and Kuwait, she and three-year-old Emily (who has worked a passport since six months of age) now call Las Vegas home.
View all posts from Andrea
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